In the absence of a mutually-acceptable political outcome for northern Kosovo, the UN must be prepared to stay in the field and return, if necessary, its own international police force to stand with KFOR as the responsible peacekeepers.
By Gerard M. Gallucci
News on Kosovo is full of reporting based on a story published by Koha Ditore in Pristina. Koha apparently claims to have a government document that suggests that Kosovo will end its period of “supervised independence” without having settled the north. Kosovo’s parliament will supposedly take action on 22 constitutional amendments and 21 laws that will remove the elements of the Ahtisaari Plan that gave executive competencies to the international authorities. These will be “transferred” to the institutions of the Kosovo state. The target date is said to be September, when the International Community Office (ICO), which was to exercise most of the competencies mandated to the internationals, is to cease functioning. EULEX would stay longer but without any “supranational” policing function.
The ICO was a mostly moribund entity since its creation and its demise will make little practical difference. Non-Albanians south of the Ibar River won’t have anyone to take their problems to but in reality have been in the hands of Pristina institutions and the Kosovo Albanian majority anyway. The real import of the end of “supervised independence” will be to further justify Pristina acting unilaterally in the north. Contrary to Koha Ditore, the document’s alleged failure to mention the north is the message. Pristina seems to have no other plan for the north than to take it the moment the internationals go missing or stand down. (This barring some truth to the rumors of secret contacts with Belgrade.) It outlined its approach in July 2011 and has repeatedly referred to it.
Obviously, neither Pristina nor the Quint can unilaterally suspend UN Security Council Resolution 1244. That mandates an international peacekeeping presence in Kosovo. Recent events demonstrate that peacekeeping remains quite relevant. NATO has sent reinforcements for northern Kosovo, and both KFOR and the EU have cautioned Pristina not to attempt to use force in the north. KFOR has blocked action by Kosovo’s special police (ROSU) and EULEX says it has increased patrols in mixed areas in the north. Nothing Pristina does or says should be allowed to dictate the approach taken by the international peacekeepers. They will need to stay until a real peace takes hold.
However, it is not enough for EULEX to simply remain in Kosovo. It seems intent on retreating to a mere “mentor, monitor and advise” role (MMA). NATO has noticed EULEX’s failure to exercise its peacekeeping functions in the north. EULEX has indeed made matters worse in the north by enforcing Kosovo Albanian unilateral returns, seeking to impose Kosovo customs at the boundary and allowing the Kosovo police to act unilaterally in the north. EULEX exercises executive authority for rule of law under a grant of responsibility from the UN, not from Brussels, Washington, Berlin or Pristina. If it cannot or will not do the job neutrally and as the international peacekeeping police force, then this responsibility falls back to the UN.
UN/DPKO in New York was pleased with itself in November 2008 for transferring rule of law to EULEX. It thought this got the UN off the hook for Kosovo. Not so. Until and unless there is a mutually acceptable political outcome for northern Kosovo, the UN had better be prepared to stay in the field and return, if necessary, its own international police force to stand with KFOR as the responsible peacekeepers.
Gerard M. Gallucci is a retired US diplomat and UN peacekeeper. He worked as part of US efforts to resolve the conflicts in Angola, South Africa and Sudan and as Director for Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council. He served as UN Regional Representative in Mitrovica, Kosovo from July 2005 until October 2008 and as Chief of Staff for the UN mission in East Timor from November 2008 until June 2010. Gerard is also a member of TransConflict’s Advisory Board.